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The Rum Diaries: Rum’s Best Mixes – Dissecting the Daiquiri

March 25, 2012

Spring weather has arrived early this year and it’s high time to begin to celebrate some island inspired drinks from throughout the ages incorporating juices and other fresh ingredients.

From it’s controversial and humble origins in a tiny village in Cuba, one of the world’s most famous yet misunderstood drinks is the Daiquiri. Far from a drink that should be relegated to a blended mix of swill rum and pre-packaged artificially flavored mix, the Daiquiri most closely illustrates the idea of using ingredients from the very same place where the spirit is being made. Applying the idea of terroir to spirits and even more so to cocktails is a stretch, but if it existed, this is it..

Have rum? it’s probable that, if you’re in Cuba, for instance, rum, limes and sugar are not far away.

While British Royal Navy sailors were probably drinking something like this mixture far before what some like to sell as the creation story of the Daiquiri, it’s still useful to use the Caribbean as the origin of this mixture.  It’s likely that islanders were using these ingredients along with things like coconut milk as long as rum had been produced on their local land masses, for some islands as early as the beginning of the 17th century.

It should go without saying that it’s worth your time to get a couple of limes, some sugar, and a good bottle of rum and shake up your own Daiquiri. There is nary as refreshing a drink as a well made Daiquiri and yet it’s such a simple mix of four elements; strong, sour, sweet, weak.

Let’s get mixing: Remember high school biology and learning about the Punnet Square? The 4-chambered diagram can be a useful tool for thinking about mixing drinks.

Think about the Daiquiri in this way; you have 4 basic components, as above, strong, sour, sweet, and weak that are X’s and Y’s consisting of different weights and densities. XX being the base component of this “Sour”, in this case, Denizen Rum.



Then we have XY in the form of sweet. “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” Granulated sugar, the  rason d’etre for Rum being born is the classic way for the Daiquiri but feel free to experiment with other sweeteners (as in the Honeysuckle below).

Our other XY is the ever important balancer of the sweet, fresh lime juice, just as it would have been freshly squeezed from limes growing on trees next to those earliest sugar cane fields that yielded the world’s first rums. Adjust this to your own level of tart to sweet by mixing up a bit and tasting as you go before and after to get a sense of your palette. Limes and rum go together like peanut butter and jelly and there are few reasons to omit lime juice for other citrus though grapefruit can also be a nice addition or substitution in the right mix.

Our last XX = water in the form of ice being shaken to mix, chill, and slightly dilute the beverage alcohol that is hopefully the healthy base of your drink. This is a much more important component than is commonly thought and under or over shaking with the wrong amount of ice can throw a drink out of balance. Fill your shaker at least 2/3-3/4 full of ice AFTER pouring the liquid ingredients.

So now we have all of our disparate items together in the vessel and it’s time to shake well. The result is a cold, delicious, and perfectly uniform mixture; the litmus test of balance when done well.

Daiquiri  The Classic

2 oz Denizen Rum

Âľ oz fresh lime juice

Âľ oz simple syrup 1:1 or 1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Pour all ingredients into a mixing tin. (if using granulated sugar, include this first and use the lime juice to dissolve the sugar a bit by swirling and then adding the rum)

Add ice

Shake well

Strain (double strain with a tea strainer, if desired) into a chilled cocktail glass

Garnish with a lime wheel

Remember you may like your Daiquiri dryer than your guests and understanding your likes against the mean is an important part of drink making.

One of the most basic forms of cocktail creation is simple substitution. Switch out the sugar for honey and adjust the proportions to taste and voila, you’ve got yourself a Honeysuckle. A delicious spring drink to experiment with using local honeys. Try things like orange blossom or other flower honeys for nice variations.

Honeysuckle   simple substitution

2 oz Denizen Rum

Âľ oz fresh lime juice

½ – Âľ oz honey syrup* (depending on honey)

Pour all ingredients in to a mixing tin

Add ice


Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Garnish with a wedge of lime

*honey syrup is made by diluting the pure honey with a bit of hot water (4 or 5 parts honey to water usually will suffice, depending on the viscosity). Stir this mixture until it is consistent.

If you want to try it on for size with a liqueur like crème de cacao or maraschino instead, you’ve got yourself a Mullato Daquiri. This is a slightly more advanced drink with it’s rare liqueurs and precise measurements. Worth the pain should you like…

Mulata Daquiri   advanced substituion

1.5 oz Denizen Rum

Âľ oz lime

½ oz crème de cacao

1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur

1 teaspoon simple syrup 1:1

In light of spring, why not try the above  basic Daquiri formula and throwing in some cool spring herbs like basil from your garden? Lavender for a nice floral touch? Go down to the farmers market and see what kind of different cool honeys your local bee farmer has?

Lastly, it’s still fun to drink blender drinks and it shows us the concept of dilution, as the amount of ingredients may need to change in light of the addition of water, in this case by blending into a frozen mix. This also can be a chance to get away with a slightly more booze forward drink, if adding juices that are naturally sweet like pineapple.

This one is from our friend Martin Cate and Smuggler’s Cove San Francisco, CA

Caribeño  fundamental substitution 

1/2 oz fresh lime juice

1/4 oz rich simple syrup

4 oz coconut water

2 oz Denizen Rum

Pulse blend 2-3 seconds with 1 cup crushed ice until frothy and chilled, but not frozen or slushy.  Pour into double old fashioned glass. and garnish with lime wedge.

You’ve now got the perfect skeleton to try new variations of the Daquiri.  Celebrate spring and the arrival of rums with the flavor worth rediscovering in these simple lost classics.

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